The first attempt at protecting the resources found in the Narrows dates back to 1986 when the Island Resources Foundation prepared a marine parks proposal for the Southeast Peninsula area of St. Kitts. In 1998 the St. Kitts Fisheries Management Unit prepared a proposal for the preparation of a Management Plan for the development of Marine Protected Areas and in 2006, the Nevis Department of Fisheries put forth a proposal for management of the Narrows.
Over the years, the fish stock and state of biodiversity in The Narrows have been deteriorating; the general consensus is that while past communication activities were somewhat successful in raising the awareness and action at the institutional level, it failed to move political leaders and the broader public to action or induce a change in attitude and/or behavior.
We are now embarking on this project with the overall objective being the enhanced management of The Narrows Marine Managed Area (NMMA) in St. Kitts and Nevis. The primary purpose of this management is to derive economic, social and cultural benefits that can be generated from the continued use of the area.
To achieve this, the Narrows Marine Managed Area (NMMA) would require the participation of the many diverse stakeholders, including yacht owners and shipping interests, the fishing community, tourism interests, environmental organizations and the general public.
Multiplicity of uses and users have brought a range of challenges, conflicts and threats to the marine and coastal ecosystems. These include land-based and other sources of pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, and ad hoc infrastructure development, among others.
What is critical is that there are no overarching policies as well as a lack of subsidiary legislation to give effect to the laws and ensure the proper management of the marine resources.
Sadly there are no regulations to the National Conservation Environment Protection Act of 1987, which would address the prohibited activities in designated protected areas and there are no regulations for Environmental Impact Assessment. Environmental management is fragmented with government agencies focusing on a sectoral approach with little consultation, coordination and collaboration among themselves.
The general consensus therefore seems to be the presence of fragmented environmental management.
Lack of coordination among stakeholder agencies is problematic and need to be addressed and improved for the effective organization and development of the marine managed area.
An overall look at our laws reveals the need for a proper strategy and the establishment of an enabling policy framework for marine managed area and the improvement of the legal framework for such MMA.
What is the Narrows Marine Managed Area (NMMA)?
A definition or review as adapted from the Management Plan describes the Narrows is the name of the strait that separates the Caribbean Islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. This area is within a 2-mile radius around the coastline of St. Kitts and Nevis which will be declared as the Marine Managed Area. This will be the first protected area within the Marine Managed Area.
This area consists of dense sea grass communities and coral which make it a rich fish nursery.
This area is the breeding ground for commercial fish species, lobster and conch.
At the coastal one can find mangroves, salt ponds, sea turtle nesting beaches, and bird nesting.
The biodiversity of the area includes a rich diversity of reef and pelagic fish, lobsters, conch turtles, algae, resident and migratory birds.
The coastal zone supports a range of sites with historical and cultural significance. These coastal resources provide the basis for a range of economic and social activities. It is without doubt that the marine environment makes a significant contribution to the overall economy of St. Kitts and Nevis, supporting a diverse network of commercial activities including commercial and sport fishing, tourism, shipping, yachting, recreation and as a source of building materials.
WHY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NARROWS MARINE MANAGED AREA
The marine environment is the lifeblood that supports many coastal communities.
Statistics have shown that the unsustainable and illegal fishing practices is a major concern and the establishment of an Marine Managed Area would indeed help to recover and improve the fish stock and other marine resources such as conch and lobster.
The marine and coastal resources on the Narrows Marine Managed Area provide for a wide range of economic and social activities.
The marine environment makes a significant contribution to the overall economy of St. Kitts and Nevis. This area supports a diverse network or commercial activities, including commercial and sport fishing, tourism, shipping, yachting, recreation and as a source of building materials.
The marine environment is the backbone of the global transportation system.
Opportunities may exist for further development of existing sectors, particularly fisheries and tourism, and also the development of new activities or sectors such as aquaculture, and pharmaceutical products, offshore oil and gas productions.
Unsustainable and illegal fishing practices have been documented as a major issue and the establishment of a Marine Managed Area in this area would facilitate the recovery of the fish stocks and other marine resources such as conch and lobster.
HOW IS THE PROJECT FUNDED / REALISED
The assistance for this project is part of a regional programme between Germany and CARICOM called Caribbean Aqua-Terrestrial Solutions (CATS).
Funding is made available by the German Federal Ministry. CATS is being implemented jointly between the Environment of Health and Management of the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the German Development Cooperation.
This programme which is Component 2 or CATS 2 is “Management of Coastal Resources and Conservation of Marine Biodiversity in the Caribbean”.
The Caricom territories currently being funded for the establishment of Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) are Dominica, Grenada, St. Kiits and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Technical support is being received from CATS, designed to help us maximize the resources.
The focus of CATS is the improvement of sustainable management and in particular the sustainable financial management of Marine Managed Area (NMMA).
The national implementing agency is the Department of Marine Resources.
ZONES or SPECIFIC MARKED AREAS WITHIN THE NARROWS
Multiple Use Zones are proposed within the area with priority focuses namely;
Transportation priority Zone
Fishing priority Zone
Recreation priority Zone
Conservation priority Zone
BENEFITS OF THE NARROWS MARINE MANAGED AREA
The area to be designated as the NMMA will be managed to achieve these objectives:
- To protect natural and scenic areas of national and international significance for educational, recreational, spiritual, and touristic purposes
- To sustain different habitats and species
- To keep the area in its most natural state
- To manage visitor use
- To prevent exploitation of the area
- To ensure that the natural resources in the NMMA is conserved and sustained for long use
- To protect the livelihoods of the local communities, in particular, the fishermen that utilize the area
- Financial benefits
- Yachting (anchoring of yachts)
- Snorkelling and dive trips, as well as the enjoyment of the sun, sea and sand are integral part of the tourist entertainment.
- Inter and intra-island transportation needs of the islands including car ferry, water taxis and personal recreation vessels traversed the NMMA on a daily basis.
Once effectively managed by an efficient Management Plan the NMMA will have various immediate socio-economic benefits for the Federation.
INTEREST GROUPS / PERSONS INVOLVED
There is need to establish an implementation Committee with fair representation from all the relevant stakeholders. By stakeholder it is meant to be any individual or group who may be involved in, affected by, or expresses a strong interest in, the management of a particular resource area. Regular meetings with stakeholders will ensure a commitment to the provision of sufficient information to all stakeholders; the provision of opportunities for face to face discussion with stakeholders in mutually acceptable locations; and as a result the trickling down of information to the general public.
The various stakeholders including but not limited to:
Ministry of Sustainable Development
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Tourism
Department of Maritime Affairs
Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs
Department of Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Environment
St. Christopher National Trust
Nevis Historical and Conservation Society
St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority
Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority
Shipping Interest Association
Yacht owners Association
Department of Environment
Catamaran Cruise Operators
Solid Waste Department
Department of Land, Housing
WHAT IS NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE
- Creation of a Fisheries Act as the current Act has its limitations
- Need for a strong legal and constitutional framework
- Need for a popular national legal and operational framework that the general populace must understand
- Review of Policies to drive the project
- Review of legislation that can address critical stumbling blocks if any
- Shaping of Laws of Responsibility, Accountability, and Consequences
- Strong communication plan to improve the public’s understanding of the NMMA
- Education and Awareness of the General Public
- To achieve maximum benefits from the NMMA would require a whole new way of thinking as it relates to our marine resources as well as ongoing communication, raising awareness, public outreach and community engagement. These factors are critical at creating commitment at all levels of society. Through active participation in the protection and conservation of the area would the establishment and sustainable use of the Narrows become a reality.
HOW IS THE NARROWS TO BE ESTABLISHED
A critical component must involve the commitment of the Government of the day to effect changes and amendments to the laws of the land to coincide with the development and sustained use of the NMMA.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has established laws, regulations, guidelines and standards that govern the sustainable use and exploitation of its natural resources. And therefore what we would encourage is the enforcement of the laws and constant review if necessary
Management Plan is vital the creation of which has been realized through private assistance.
A strong, creative and revolutionary Communication Plan to include various activities and events to provide not only public awareness and understanding but a different approach and mindset on how the public view marine resource and management and conservation.
The development of a comprehensive legislation for marine management areas which would involve the conducting of legislative review as well as the enactment of a New Fisheries Act and accompanying regulations. If necessary this would also require the development of drafting instructions for proposed legislative changes. Each stage of the legal process would also mean public consultation on whatever proposed legislative changes.
Introduction of Mechanisms for finances/user fees for specific activities which would mean the enactment of Income Generating Legislation.
Need to incorporate the NMMA into the physical planning system.
Need to review Land Use Policy and Physical Development.
Recognizing the importance of protecting these resources, the government is currently doing a critical first steps towards coastal and marine protection by declaring all seas within a 2-mile radius around the coastline of the Saint Kitts and Nevis Marine Management Area (SKNMMA). By way of review and update of its legislation this declaration will be made under the new Fisheries Act of the Federation.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis (GOSKN) is committed to the long term development of the island through the sustainable and rational use of its natural resources. New investment projects, as well as the expansion of existing development projects, are actively encouraged by the Government. However, the need for development of the country must be balanced against the need to preserve and enhance its natural resources.
To accomplish this process the GOSKN has established laws, regulations, guidelines and standards that govern the sustainable use and exploitation of its natural resources. These laws and regulations are implemented by Government Departments with the support of funding agencies, NGOs and local communities through monitoring, management or active participation.
CALL TO ACTION
The development of the Narrows Marine Managed Area is an integral part of who we are as a people.
The Narrows is home to a variety of traditional fishing activities, as well as to major hotels and the tourists who temporarily dwell there. Through the project all important stakeholders and sectors are encouraged to play a part in the establishment of the NMMA as a managed area, and in the process raise awareness about the beauty and value of this national asset. Sustainable management can only redound to the country’s benefit by resulting in positive experiences, improved biodiversity and in the final analysis produce an increased sense of national pride.
There is already in place a communication plan to generate public awareness. The goal is to ensure that each citizen to visit the Narrows. In the process the goal is intended to translate to making the name “THE NARRROWS” a household name within each home on St. Kitts and Nevis and to ensure that every citizen fully understand the marine environment as an important part of the Federation’s heritage and history.